Opposites Attract: Using Color in the Flower Garden

The color theory of pairing colors together from opposite sides of the color wheel for great contrast works well in the garden.


I’m sure you have heard the expression “opposites attract”. But, did you know that this phrase also extends to plants?

Do you know why the yellow flowers of Gold Lantana and the blue of Cape Plumbago look good together in the photo above?

The answer is because they are opposites.  In this case, it means that they are the opposite of each in regards to their color, which contrast with each other because they are at opposite ends of the color wheel.


Complementary Colors in the Garden

Plants with contrasting colors draw the eye to them and create interest in the garden.  Figuring out what colors contrast to teach other, is easy.

All you need is to look at a color wheel.  Now, all that you need to do is pair plants together, with one from each end of the color wheel.

Here are some examples of beautiful contrasting color combos: orange with blue or purple, red and blue, purple and yellow, light green with pink or purple.

colorful_containersRoland Jordahl

In this arrangement, the warm reds of Vinca and Dianthus with the yellow Zinnias contrast with the ‘cool’ blues and purples of Lobelia, Toadflax and Lavender.

Contrasting colors in the garden can also be accomplished by planting a blue-colored pot (or other cool color) and filling it with plants that have ‘warm’ colors such as orange, red and/or yellow.


This container of violas is the perfect illustration of contrasting colors.  Oranges and yellows, look great with the blues and purples.

The same color theory of pairing colors together from opposite sides of the color wheel for great contrast doesn’t just extend to the garden.  It also works when you select what clothes to wear together or when decorating your home.

The next time you are deciding what types of flowering plants to add to your garden, just remember this important fact: “Opposites Attract”

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, writer and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. She is the CEO and owner of 'AZ Plant Lady,' an education company that aims to help people garden successfully in the desert climate. She is the author of the book, Dry Climate Gardening, and her byline has appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is an instructor at the Desert Botanical garden and Tucson Botanical Gardens.